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APM PMC SIG conference 2021: Project controls: but not as we know it

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APM Planning, Monitoring and Control SIG Conference 2021 - Project Data Analytics

Project controls: but not as we know it


As we all know a robust project controls system is a key element to delivering a successful project. There are many long standing and well-practiced methodologies, process and tools as well as experienced practitioners out there. As technology moves on at pace the APM Planning, Monitoring and Control (PMC) SIG was concerned that unless we move with the times, we may become a ‘Kodak’. The conference shed new light on the emerging field of project data analytics and the crucial role it is set to play in future projects, making best use of the data to help better inform decisions and provide greater success in delivery of our projects.

The conference provided an insight from a range of Project Data Analysts (PDA) practitioners as well as feedback from a recent Delphi research study on the topic to around one hundred delegates from across a variety of industries.

Martin Paver opened the conference and started the debate with his dramatically titled presentation ‘Disruption is coming.... are you ready?’ He described how the future is in our hands, we have to decide whether we become ‘software jockeys’ or PDAs. We need to work collaboratively and use inter-connected data to enable us to unlock doors and predict the future.

Jay Armstrong and Sanjay Nithiyanantham followed with by describing how we are in the 4th Industrial Revolution during their presentation entitled Punchcards to Power BI - Managing change in the digital age. People, process and system are all key considerations and must be handled carefully and sensitively to enable a change to take place effectively. Training and upskilling of people is essential and small steps are needed in order to change an established process. The right tools are needed for the right job but being flexible in the approach is fundamental.

We then had a presentation from Steve Naybour, Milla Mazilu, Yamini Kumar, and Pragya Raina. The session started with a highly engaging set of slides from Steve, which outlined the strategic importance of the work and some of the thinking behind the early days of the change within Network Rail. The focus has been on pulling out the key elements from huge reports and vast amounts of data. This was followed up with Milla’s session, covering the use of Power BI and Sharepoint to feed accessible and interactive reports enabling drill-down as necessary. This enables management and teams to focus on the issues and not just the data. The presentations then moved into demonstrations of dashboards, the first was run by Yamini, on the topic of Risk Management and the final dashboard demo came from Pragya, on the topic of Milestone Management.
The key quote from the presentation was “Turn Data into Insights and Insights into Actions”

After lunch Stephen Jones talked us through how Sellafield have Implemented a portfolio programme management (PPM) tool. The tool facilitates analytics and dashboard reporting, saving man-hours of data collection and feeding into Power BI reports which can be tailored to suit different users and allow teams to see what they want. Stephen showed us some examples of different reports that are generated. The process of choosing the right tool as also touched on and how key criteria helped inform the decision about which tool was right for the business.

One of the highlights of the conference was Project Data Analytics: The state of the art and science, presented by Naomi Brookes. The topic of PDA is subject to a research study, using a structured process and input from an extended set of experts from across academia and industry. Feasibility studies indicate that using PDA better could produce savings of over £23bn per annum in the infrastructure sector. But, as with all things there are barriers as well as enablers. This include:

  • Issues – data quality and consistent data formatting
  • Training - every project professional needs to improve their data literacy
  • “We need examples of successful use of PDA to enable us to convince others”
  • Fears of the unknown
    - What will it uncover? “I don’t want to be the one that reports the bad news!”
    - ‘If a data analyst can give all this information and make that decision for me, what is my role as an executive?’.”

This is early days in the research with more to be done but the take away from Naomi’s presentation is that we need to approach adopting PDAs holistically. There is no ‘silver bullet’.

The conference topic came about from the discussions that have been happening in the project controls arena. The exciting presentations from the conference and the interest that they have sparked from the participants and the questions raised during the day makes the next steps even more intriguing. People are certainly key to the future of PDA and I believe we are only at the beginning of the journey to see the future trends.

PDA is happening and how it is used and impacts all of us in our professional lives can be shaped by all of us. The PMC SIG have a Working Group developing this topic, if you would like to find our more, share your experiences and learn from others then please contact us.


Review of agenda and session resources
Revisit each speaker bio and presentations synopsis.

Resources from the sessions that the speaker was able to make available for viewing are listed below and also linked on their speaker page.

  • Welcome and scene setting, presented by Caspar Bartington and Edi Hayward 
    🕑 5 mins Session resource: Recording

  • Disruption is coming.... are you ready?, presented by Martin Paver, Keynote speaker  
    🕑 20 mins Session resource: Recording

  • Punchcards to Power BI - Managing change in the digital age, presented by Jay Armstrong and Sanjay Nithiyanantham 🕑 46 mins Session resources: RecordingSlides

  • Raiders of the lost knowledge, presented by Steve Naybour, Milla Mazilu, Yamini Kumar and Pragya Raina 🕑 43 mins Session resource: Recording 

  • Implementation of a portfolio programme management (PPM) tool, presented by
    Stephen Jones 🕑 46 mins Session resources: RecordingSlides

  • Project Data Analytics: The state of the art and science, presented by Naomi Brookes
    🕑 44 mins Session resource: Recording

  • Close of conference, presented by Keith Haward
    🕑 11 mins Session resources: RecordingSlides


APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition reference

    Section Description
   3.3.6 Continuing professional development (CPD)



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